RSS

Tag Archives: James Horner

Sneakers (1992) – The 2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon

Sound is important in Sneakers. Not only the soundtrack by composer James Horner, but also the daily sounds of life and conversation.

Sneakers is a comedy/cyber/caper released in 1992 and starring Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Dan Ackroyd, and Ben Kingsley. It’s about a group of anti-authoritarian misfits who make a living by sneaking into businesses to test security and make recommendations for how the businesses can improve their security. As one woman tells Redford’s Martin Bishop, it’s not a very good way to make a living.

But then they are hired to steal a mysterious box, which turns out to be the ultimate code breaker. A box that contains the key to breaking the code of every encrypted computer system in existence. The project is called Setec Astronomy, which is an anagram for “Too Many Secrets” (Wikileaks, anyone?). Needless to say, nearly everyone wants it – Russia, NSA, mobsters, and Redford’s former friend and now turned mad genius Cosmo, played by Ben Kingsley.

I’ve always enjoyed this film and since I’ve recently been watching a lot of Sidney Poitier films, this seemed like the perfect choice for Film Music Central‘s “2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon.”

The score for Sneakers is actually quite unexpected. It has the usual tense, caper music that one expects for a caper, but he does something else rather unexpected. He elicits a sense of wonderment.

Listen to this clip when the group discover that the box is really a code breaker. As composer Nicholas Britell notes, “at first, we hear a simple yet catchy piano theme repeated over and over. As it continues repeating, a second piano line joins in as a partner to it. The music is quiet yet densely populated with short little piano notes. The music feels like a perfect counterpoint to what is taking place on-screen.” When they finally solve the mystery, the music, with its use of choir, takes on a sense of excitement, but also wonderment.

Britell describes it best. I really have little I can add to it.

Horner’s dense texture of uniform repeated notes feels like the “little bits of data,” the “ones and zeroes” that are at the heart of the film’s drama. Listening further to the piece in the “Setec Astronomy” scene, we see the music continue to develop: one, two, then three different pianos playing along simultaneously. As the characters get closer to deciphering the code, more and more musical elements join in: female choir, harp, strings, woodwinds, percussion. We really begin to feel viscerally the newfound power of these “little ones and zeroes.”

But I think there is also that sense of wonderment. Wonder at the world and what makes it up and what people can do. The wonderment and thrill of discovery. Cosmo argues that “it’s not about who has the most bullets. It’s about who has the most information…the world isn’t run by weapons anymore, or energy, or money. It’s run by little ones and zeroes, little bits of data. It’s all just electrons.”

But with Horner’s music, information, little bits of data, ones and zeroes are beautiful. Like wondering at the DNA that makes up the world. I like it because it adds a dimension that would otherwise be lacking in the film if the score had been more conventional.

Of course, once they realize the power of what they have, the music becomes much more frightening. Jumping around, in the lower registers of the piano, agitated, menacing.

But here is the lovely music for when Cosmo and Bishop – friends as young men – see each other last. That lovely, mournful saxophone. Where Cosmo cannot kill his friend. It makes you think how lonely Cosmo has been all these years, in prison, working for mobsters. Only Bishop, he feels, can understand him and what he wants to achieve. And Bishop, who feels partly responsible for getting Cosmo in trouble in the first place.

I mentioned that sound in general is important in the film. One of the group, Whistler (David Straitairn), is blind and so notices sounds and conversation while the others are caught up in visuals. When Bishop is knocked unconscious and stuffed in a trunk and driven somewhere, Whistler later helps him track down where the car went by tracking the sounds Bishop heard. The sounds of a car driving over concrete bumps on a bridge, cackling geese (which Bishop thought sounded like a cocktail party).

And then there’s the wonderful voice of James Earl Jones. We first hear him over the phone, but he makes an appearance at the very end and is marvelous. The tonal shades he can put into his voice never ceases to amaze me. He has presence, but his voice has presence, also.

If you have never seen Sneakers, I definitely recommend it. A great cast – I always liked Sidney Poitier as the ex-CIA Crease, who is extremely security conscious and is always being driven nuts by Dan Ackroyd’s paranoid conspiracy theories. I also enjoy Mary McDonnell, who’s bemused good humor with Bishop and the entire eccentric group and their escapades mirrors our own. As she remarked when Bishop suddenly bursts out with “Setec Astronomy!”

“I just love it when a man says that to me.”

But I also really appreciate the soundtrack by James Horner. It fits the mood of the film, enhances it, but is never just dully predictable.

I want to thank Film Music Central for hosting this great event! It was wonderful to have the opportunity to give the score of a film the attention it deserves….especially a score by James Horner. Be sure to read the other posts from the blogathon for days 1, 2, and 3.

I’ll end with this clip from the film. The music seems to positively delight in the ingenuity of solving what appears to be an impossible task…via sound.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on June 25, 2017 in Movies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Cocoon (1985) – Remembering James Horner Blogathon

download (2)Two days ago – June 22nd – marked a year after the tragic death of composer James Horner in an airplane crash and in honor of his memory Film Music Central is hosting the “Remembering James Horner Blogathon.” Be sure to check out the other great posts here. For my contribution, I am focusing on James Horner’s score from Cocoon, a sci-fi/fantasy that was directed by Ron Howard in 1985.

As a fan of Don Ameche, I’d been curious to see the film for some time after I’d read that he earned an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. I’m not usually very familiar with actors from the 1980s, but Cocoon is actually full of familiar faces. Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Gwen Verdon, Maureen Stapleton and even Tyrone Power’s son, Tyrone Power Jr. (who looks like his father, but has none of his charisma).

The film begins with three friends – Art (Don Ameche), Ben (Wilford Brimley), and Joe (Hume Cronyn) – who live at a retirement home, but sneak into an empty neighboring mansion to swim in the pool. But after four mysterious strangers rent the mansion and charter a boat captained by the somewhat awkward Jack (Steve Guttenberg), they start bringing cocoons up from the ocean and putting them in the pool.

The three men discover that the pool suddenly has regenerative powers. They feel more alive and vital and Joe’s cancer goes into remission. Ben and Joe’s respective married life suddenly comes alive and Art starts going out with fellow retiree Bess (Gwen Verdon). Soon all six of them are swimming in the pool, recapturing the romance and excitement of their youth.

There are no villains in Cocoon. The four strangers are revealed to be aliens who used to live on earth thousands of years ago and are trying to rescue their friends, who are in the cocoons. The aliens seem to have remarkable healing abilities and do not experience old age or death by natural causes. Their leader, Walter (Brian Dennehy), agrees to let the six of them continue to swim in the pool (since Joe will die if he doesn’t), but only if they keep it a secret, which isn’t easy to do because all the inhabitants of the retirement home have noticed their remarkable rejuvenation and want to share in it.

Cocoon

Don Ameche, Hume Cronyn, Wilford Brimley

The movie is a meditation on life, death and love and although the beginning seems like more of a comedy, ultimately there is a melancholy and gentle vibe to the film which James Horner’s score perfectly captures, or rather, frames. His music is as much a star as the excellent cast. I was crying at the death of a green and shriveled alien. That had to be the music. The music is at times whimsical, melancholy, but also full of wonder and I was unexpectedly moved by the beauty of the score.

(plot spoilers ahead)

The wonder is reserved partly for the aliens, with their unique ability to make people feel good when they are around. They are the friendliest, most normal aliens one will ever encounter, who can empathize with the frailty of the humans, even though they do not experience that same frailty. But when Walter is unable to save a few of his friends, he too learns what it feels like to grieve, feel helpless, and he offers to take all the members of the retirement home back with him when he leaves earth.

Its like the adventure of a lifetime for many of these people who thought they were going to live out the remainder of their days in increasing illness as they watch those they love die, but it is still hard not to see their leaving with the aliens as partly a metaphor for life after death.  A new adventure, leaving earth behind forever. The wonderment and difficulty of imagining what that will be like is present…as well as the regret of leaving behind the life that is known. This isn’t as much of a problem for most of the people, who do not seem to have family, but Ben (Wilford Brimley) and his wife have a daughter and grandson, who they are particularly close to, and it’s hard to say goodbye, especially to their grandson.

the alien (as they really look when not wearing their human skin) welcomes them to the pool

the alien (as they really look when not wearing their human skin) welcomes them to the pool

One man believes that the aliens and their cocoon are cheating death and the natural passage of time and prefers to stay “home” on earth. His decision is sympathetic, too, especially after his wife dies. You can see that he and his wife were a couple essentially satisfied with life, with no regrets, and now that she’s gone, he’s ready to go, too.

(end spoilers)

Cocoon provided the first opportunity for James Horner to work with director Ron Howard and they would collaborate on seven films, including Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind. But his score for Cocoon is particularly poignant. There is a gentleness to it, a transparent simplicity that also gives space for reflection.

What was also fun about the soundtrack was the inclusion of many songs from the 1940s. As the retirees recapture their youth, they sing and we hear the songs of their youth. Don Ameche sings “I’m in the Mood for Love” and goes down on one knee to sing “Some Enchanted Evening” to the woman he’s wooing. We also hear “Dancing in the Dark” and “You’ll Never Know.” There is even a contemporary eighties song called “Gravity,” which Ameche (and his stunt double) dances to demonstrate the level of his rejuvenation.

This post was part of the “Remembering James Horner Blogathon.” I want to thank Bex at Film Music Central for hosting this wonderful event!

james-horner

On the website James Horner Film Music, the soundtrack is discussed for Cocoon, pointing out the piano and guitar used during the song “Rose’s Death,” which is a scene guaranteed to have you bawling. To quote the article, “The composer recently said that he wants to look for melancholic colors echoing the past with certain instruments that are the key to unlocking the heart”.

James Horner repeats the theme in “First Tears,” when the alien dies, this time using horn and oboe. I defy anyone not to cry during this scene.

And here are the end credits, which encapsulates the entire score, the entire theme of wonder, awe, longing, loss and love. It’s a remarkable accomplishment.

And just for good measure, here is the trailer.

 
11 Comments

Posted by on June 24, 2016 in Movies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

My 1st blogathon: Remembering James Horner

Excited to be participating in the “Remembering James Horner Blogathon.”

Film Music Central

Untitled

Today I would like to announce/propose my first blogathon, honoring the memory of the late film composer James Horner. The blogathon will be held from June 24-26 and will focus on any film where James Horner composed the music.

The blog posts may either focus on the music specifically or the film (or both), it simply must feature Horner’s music.

You can find a list of all of James Horner’s film scores at the link below

James Horner Wikipedia

There are enough scores that everyone should be able to do a different film with no repeats. Fill out the form below to select the film you’d like to blog about, and I’ll keep a list of films selected as I receive them here . Let’s do this!!

P.S. If you could reblog this to help spread the word, that would be great! Thanks!

View original post

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 19, 2016 in Movies, Music, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: